A cash float is part of a retail shop's cash accounting procedures. Specifically, it is a tool used to cover for a customer's change, especially at the beginning of the trading day when there have been few sales. The float is not considered part of a company's revenue. Floats tend to be of less and less importance these days, due to the rising popularity of other forms of payment, such as debit and credit cards.
The cash float
A cash float is simply the money left in a till or register from the start of the business day to the end of the business day. The main motivation for a cash float is to ensure that there is an adequate amount of change for customers. If there were no cash float, then the first few customers could not be accommodated, as there would be no change to give them if they purchased a good or service with cash.
A shop will try to maintain a number of notes and coins in certain denominations, because they are more likely to be needed for change. The proportions maintained will depend on the size of the shop's float, which in turn depends on the shop's size and the number of customers it receives in a given day. For example, a smaller shop that sells cheaper goods and has three tills may decide to keep a cash float of £96, with £32 for each register. The £32 will then be broken down into one bill of £20, one bill of £5, and £7, in a range of coins.
In addition to the cash float, a shop may also keep a small contingency of petty cash. Petty cash is usually in the form of pennies and other coins. It is often referred to as the "penny jar." The penny jar comes into use when the shop finds that it has exhausted some of its denominations on an especially busy trading day. Unlike the float, petty cash tends not to be accounted for at the beginning and end of the trading day, due to its smaller sums.
At the end of a shop's trading day, the money earned by the shop, or the "take," is accounted for and bagged. The shop may or may not deposit that money in the bank the next business day. It all depends on the sales volume and the shop's procedures. The cash float, however, is never banked. After the till count, the original denominations tend to be removed from the till and bagged separately from the take and stored in a safe. The float is then used for the shop's next day of operations. If the shop falls short of any denominations, these may be made up using petty cash or by converting larger denominations at the bank, which may or may not charge for the service.